Getting to Yes, And

Valarie Kaur: See No Stranger


Valarie Kaur

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Kelly has a powerful conversation with civil rights activist, award-winning filmmaker, lawyer, and faith leader Valarie Kaur. TRIGGER WARNING: this discussion includes discussion of racial slurs and sexual violence.

This book comes in the wake of so much pain and violence, some of which you experienced personally, but also that you bore witness too for others. And, in the end, it’s actually optimistic.

“I was given a gift that very few women who are mothers or are activists are ever given. I was given time off and a room of my own and I spent a year with my family in the rainforest. Breathing, really taking my first full deep breath that I had taken in a very long time and pouring through the stories of my life, pouring through social movements of the past, pouring through wisdom traditions looking for the answer. And I began to see these patterns that I started to call practices of revolutionary love; that our ancestors knew how to breathe, our ancestors knew how to push and it means grieving with each other and fighting for each other and raging with each other and reimagining with each other. And so I consolidated all this wisdom into this book. So really, Kelly, I wrote this book for my own survival.”

Can you define revolutionary love for us?

“Feelings come and go. Grief is the price of love, joy is the gift of love, rage is what we harness to protect that which we love. I mean, all of the emotions are part of the labor of caregiving. And so, what might it mean to extend that kind of love is labor beyond our own - beyond what evolution requires - to others, to our opponents, to ourselves who we too often neglect. That's what I define as revolutionary love.”

Improvisation is a practice in deep listening. We have an exercise where you have to start your sentence with the last word the other person says so you are forced to actually listen to everything this other person is saying to you.

“So, my book is filled with stories about how to do that when you're sitting with a white supremacist, with a prison guard, or with a soldier, or with your former abuser. People you do not want to listen to. And yet, how do you stay and listen to the very end of their sentence? How do you be brave enough to be changed by what you might hear and still know that it is not granting them legitimacy, it's granting them full humanity and it's preserving your own humanity. That's what revolutionary love is: it's rooted in this act of radical wondering and deep listening, which I didn't realize improv was teaching all this time.”

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